Thursday evening, January 22, 2009, at 8:00 Canadian tenor Ken Lavigne made his lifelong dream come true by singing at Carnegie Hall. This is a tenor whose time has come. A tenor who has all that is needed to soar to the top of his field. A tenor to be internationally recognized as one of the best.
How thrilling it was. How fantastic to be able to say, “I was there” when Ken Lavigne made his New York debut – performing a program of classical, folk and Broadway show tunes – conducted by his good friend, Simon Capet with the New York Pops Orchestra. It was a night to remember and savor long after his final notes were sung.
With matinee idol good looks; with a voice that is confident and powerful Ken Lavigne commenced with a brazen rendition of “Granada”. Switching gears completely he then sang “Music of the Night” from The Phantom of the Opera. Do I really have to hear this song again I wondered. Well, it was a revelation. Beautifully acted and sung, it was as though I had never heard it before.
Ken Lavigne can caress a lyric and bring tears to ones eye by the sheer beauty of his lyricism and sweetness. His diction is impeccable. He shuns arrogance. His choice of songs eclectic and wonderfully positioned to make the program extremely interesting and fun. Oh yes, he is also quite amusing. He has a natural, casual style despite the formal tux. He tells some Canadian tales, some jokes and can interrupt the proceedings to down a glass of water while all his newly acquired friends eagerly await the next amazing song. I say, “friends” because that’s the kind of guy he is. Friendly. And he treats every audience member like his best friend.
If he was as nervous as he said he was it didn’t show a bit. Standing with his feet firmly anchored to the stage, looking up to the Gallery, with his arms spread wide as if he were about to take flight, he did. Number after number impressed. The variety. The calmness. The timbre of his high notes. The strength and mellowness of his low tones. His controlled vibrato and crystal clear falsetto. What a voice! What a performer!
Part of the evenings proceeds were being donated to the British Columbia Paraplegic Association and the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation. Alexandra Reeve spoke briefly and emotionally for the need to find a miracle, to finance the research for permanent spinal cord injuries. Last July Ken’s brother-in-law sustained such an injury. He followed Ms. Reeve with the most beautiful and heartbreaking rendition of “Bring Him Home” from Les Miz.
Other highlights – I could just reprint the program as they were all outstanding but I particularly liked “Danny Boy” with solo guitar, “She Loves Me” – proving just how masterful a lyricist is Sheldon Harnick, “To Wordsworth” by T. Francis witnessing its premiere and “Because We Believe” and his own profound composition “I’m Coming Home”.
In his program notes he quotes Goethe. Whatever you can do or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.” Ken Lavigne believed. He dreamed big. He proved Goethe right Thursday evening at Carnegie Hall.
At the end of the concert he said he was overwhelmed. So were we. He received a standing ovation to which he quipped – “I’m glad you stood up, one more song couldn’t hurt.” He then sang Nessun Dorma, from Turandot. Brilliantly. He was afraid with all the excitement that he voice would crack. He needn’t have worried.